By Assan Sallah
Gora Khouma, Secretary General of the Union des Routiers du Sénégal (Urs), has strongly criticized the maltreatment of Gambians at the Amdallai -Karang Border by the Senegalese drivers at Karang and the security in general.
Speaking in a telephone interview from Dakar, Mr Khouma urged the Senegalese government to resolve the matter as soon as possible and said they must respect the Ecowas protocols and play by the rules of the game. “There should be equal treatment of all Ecowas countries,” he submitted.
He went on: “The Union des Routiers du Sénégal (Urs), under my watch, has agreed to respect and abide by the Ecowas protocol to open all borders and allow free movement of people, goods and services. This is something that the Ecowas countries signed and we must either agree to it and have a level playing field or we close all borders for all Ecowas nations.”
Blaming the Senegalese government, Mr Khouma queried why their government would watch drivers at the border open the border for Guinea Bissau, Guinea Conakry, Mali and Mauritania and close it for Gambia.
“The Senegalese state has its security at the border; so, if drivers at Karang deny Gambian buses entry and they are aware of the Ecowas protocol and the bilateral agreement we have with Gambia, why can’t they stop them? Why can’t they ask them not to block the road or arrest them, because if that problem is not solved, it could bring trouble between the two countries,” Gora Khouma stressed.
The Secretary General went further to debunk the claim of the drivers that Gambian commercial vehicles entering Senegal will affect their business, describing it as not genuine, so far as they are also allowed to enter Gambia with their commercial vehicles hassle-free. “We must open the borders for all nations or close it for all nations.
Mr Khouma disclosed that sometime in January this year, a meeting was organized at the office of the Senegalese Ministry of Transport regarding the license between Senegal and The Gambia. He said during that meeting, some people among the Senegalese delegation did not accept vehicles leaving Senegal and entering Gambia.
Earlier, the Gambia National Transport Union’s president Omar Ceesay announced at a press conference held at the Abuko Central Car Park that from Wednesday, 19th February 2020, it will not allow any commercial vehicle from Senegal to enter the Gambian territory.
This drastic measure is the consequence of several incidents at the Karang border where on several occasions Senegalese transporters operating in this sector have intercepted buses of the Gambian public transport company. The latest example was last Friday, when a bus from the Gambia Transport Service Company (GTSC) was intercepted and it narrowly escaped being ransacked by the Senegalese drivers and community members of Karang.
For the Senegalese transporters at Karang, only one bus can board from Banjul to Dakar. A position that has been defeated by the Gambian transporters, who replied that there are no restrictions in this regard and that such a measure is a flagrant violation of the principle of free movement of persons and their goods within the ECOWAS area.
In the Gambian transport union’s view, since Senegalese public transport vehicles enter The Gambia without restriction, a principle of reciprocity must be applied between the two countries.